21 December 2010

The APO doesn't exist! Rio 2016 and the failure to deliver authority

One of the most confusing and potentially harmful elements of hosting an Olympic Games is the creation of a legal authority created to "deliver" them. In the case of London there is the Olympic Delivery Authority, a non-governmental entity that has tremendous power to direct the budget, contract builders, and assume responsibility for the games. I have suggested in other places that the creation of a temporary, extra-governmental authority that is charged with delivering the Olympics only to disappear soon after, is akin to the installation of an authoritarian regime similar to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in post-invasion Iraq.

On March 14 of 2010, the slippery Minister of Sport gave an extensive explanation about how the Autoridade Público Olímpico (APO – Rio’s version of London’s ODA) would function. Minister Silva said, “We are going to have an executive department and will perhaps create a privatized, public company so that we can have flexibility in terms of contracting. This way, we will be able to pay market salaries to attract high level professionals to participate in the project”( Vamos ter um departamento executivo, talvez constituir uma empresa pública de direito privado, para termos flexibilidade em termos de contração. Com isso, poderemos pagar salários praticados pelo mercado e atrair profissionais de alto nível para participarem do projeto.) Minister Silva was tapped by Lula to head the APO and was put in the position of describing it without, perhaps, knowing exactly how it was going to work.

Things have changed since the elections.

Now, the PCdoB (Communist Party of Brasil) wants to keep Silva at the head of the Sports Ministry for the Rousseff government. Dilma agreed. This may explain why just the other day, Silva was pretending not to know anything about the existence of the APO, saying “this thing is an idea, a concept, an organization that doesn’t exist.” This, despite the fact that Lula went to some trouble to approve a Medida Provisória (MP ) brining it into existence. However, the APO requires the approval of all three levels of government and Eduardo Paes, the little prince of Rio, has begun to grumble about the extraordinary authority given over to the APO. Without the approval (or involvement) of Paes in the APO it is unlikely that his cabal of city council members will approve the MP, leaving the 2016 Olympics without an organizing structure. I am not against the disappearance of the APO, as it appeared to be an institution designed to deliver money to the contractor friends of the governor and mayor. But the IOC must really be wondering what the hell is going on with the organization of the 2016 Games, as 15 months after awarding them to Rio, there is no clear direction being taken for their implementation.

There has been rumor that the Dilma government will create an independent ministry to organize the Olympics. This is exactly what Brazil needs: another level of bureaucracy to smooth out the problems of chronic delay that already plague public works.

It is clear that no one really knows what is going on. On the front page of the Rio 2016 website is a Maracanã project that is not being planned (according to the SUDERJ and Brazil 2014 descriptions). The main news that is being spammed to the media outlets is about the countdown to the launching of the Rio 2016 brand on New Year’s Eve (oh, so exciting). The city government is launching aggressive and violent campaigns to kick people out of their homes so that huge concrete sluices can carry buses back and forth to the Olympic Zone in Barra de Tijuca. City, State, and Federal troops are occupying hills throughout the city.

Is this surprising? No. Why not? The same people who were in charge of the Pan American Games are directing the Olympics. The “legacy” benefits of that event were ZERO. Orlando Silva cited the event that he helped to direct as a failure (I heard him say this personally). Silva went so far as to blame the bloody defeat of Cesar Maia (former Rio mayor) in his bid for State Senator on the failures of the Pan. Ten years from now, who will we blame for the housing crisis, the lack of functional transportation, the poor air and water quality, the lack of decent jobs in the city, the absence of legacy benefits from the 2016 Olympics?

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